October 24, 2009 / 3:24 PM / 10 years ago

Indonesia lifts tsunami alert after powerful quake

(Recasts after tsunami warning lifted, adds quotes, details)

JAKARTA, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Indonesia briefly issued a tsunami warning on Saturday after a powerful earthquake struck the eastern part of the country, but the meteorology agency later lifted the alert.

Officials were still checking for possible casualties or damage after the quake struck in an area of the Banda sea southeast of the Maluku islands.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at 11:40 p.m. (1440 GMT) and measured magnitude 7.0.

Its epicentre was located 232 km (144 miles) northwest of Saumlaki and 366 km southeast of Ambon at a depth of 138.5 km.

The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, also said that the earthquake did not have the potential to trigger a tsunami in the Indian Ocean due to its depth.

In Papua, further east, Metro TV reported people panicked and fled to the hills after the quake, while in Ambon, in Maluku, people fled their homes fearing further aftershocks.

"We felt the quake in the hotel. But people who live in a one-storey house probably didn’t feel it ...," a witness in Ambon was quoted by Metro TV as saying.

Indonesia suffers frequent earthquakes lying on the "Pacific Ring of Fire", an area of intense seismic activity where several tectonic plates meet.

A powerful earthquake measuring 7.6 killed more than 1,000 people in an area around Padang in Western Sumatra last month. (Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu and Telly Nathalia; additional reporting by Sandra Maler in Washington; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Alison Williams)

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